By Rob Port | Watchdog.org North Dakota Bureau
QUESTIONABLE FUNDRAISING: Since 2010 frequent North Dakota federal candidate Duane Sand has used direct mail fundraising company Base Connect to bring money into his campaigns even when he hasn’t actually been a candidate.
BISMARCK, N.D. — Republican Duane Sand has a recognizable name in North Dakota because he’s been on the state ballot four times since 2000.
But what many North Dakotans may not know is that Sand is active in campaign fundraising, even when he’s not on the ballot.
Some are questioning the method.
A report from Fox 2 Detroit indicates Sand and a direct mail fundraising company his campaign uses — Base Connect — have targeted elderly people outside North Dakota to raise money for a non-existent campaign.
“Base Connect raised a half-million bucks for Duane Sand of North Dakota for the 2010 elections,” reporter Michael Elrick says. “There was just one problem: He didn’t end up running.”
Sand refused to comment on his relationship with Base Connect. “It doesn’t matter what I tell you because you’re going to write shit that’s half-true and out of context, so I’m just going to go ahead and let you do that,” he told Watchdog via telephone before hanging up.
Sand ran an unsuccessful campaign as the endorsed North Dakota GOP candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2000 and lost bids as the NDGOP endorsed candidate for the U.S. House in 2004 and 2008.
In 2012, Sand ran for the NDGOP’s U.S. Senate nomination again, but he lost on the June ballot.
But it’s Sand’s fundraising in 2010 and 2014 that’s raising eyebrows.
In the 2012 cycle, Sand raised nearly $1.07 million for his Senate campaign, according to the Federal Elections Commission, but he ended the cycle more than $53,000 in debt to BaseConnect.
It’s a debt that Sand’s campaign carries to this day. According to the July 2014 quarterly FEC filing by Sand’s campaign, BaseConnect is still owed more than $53,000. The campaign has raised more than $27,000 so far in the 2014 cycle, though Sand’s name wasn’t on the June primary ballot and won’t appear on the November ballot, either.
“These Washington money men make their living off political contributions, many of them from retirees and senior citizens who have no idea just how little of their hard-earned money ends up going to the candidates and causes they believe in,” Elrick reported in the Fox 2 Detroit story. It certainly seems as though Sand’s campaign has been targeting that demographic.
All of the itemized contributions to Sand’s campaign so far in the 2014 cycle have come from outside of North Dakota, and all but two of the 15 contributors list their occupation as “retired.”
Sand’s campaign raised more than $116,000 n the 2010 election cycle. Of the 115 itemized individual contributions reported by the campaign, more than 65 percent listed their occupation as “retired.”
Scott MacKenzie, listed at one time as a staffer for Base Connect on the company’s website, has been listed as the treasurer on Sand’s campaign since the 2010 cycle. MacKenzie has listed Base Connect as a “strategic partner” on his company’s website.
As of June 30, Sand’s campaign also reports more than $9,000 of debt to MacKenzie’s consulting firm.